A September 2004 trip
to Vancouver by travelprone
Quote: Vibrant Vancouver beckoned for the 2004 IGOUGO meeting. I attended to pick up a most welcome, but unexpected award and meet friendly guides and staff I’d corresponded with and revisit after 28 years. Tall order to fill for an all too brief 3 nights, I’ll say. The upshot? Indelible memories!
IGOUGO meets are the height of flexible; you can choose what you want to attend or not. I wanted to maximize the time spent with other guides and staff; as I arrived Thursday night and left early Sunday morning, I had minimum time for sightseeing. I suggest you plan at least 2 days before or after an IGOUGO meet just to enjoy the city you’re in, as Idler and Zabelle did. I regretted that I couldn’t as I would have loved to have seen the city view from Grouse Mountain.
SAVE yourself from frustration. Taxis (about C) were plentifully aligned in organized file near my bus pickup zone. Every time I saw people getting one, I felt furious about my misjudgment of circumstances. I PAID; I missed an hour and a half at the reception and some fun with guides and staff.
Hotel | "Tropicana Suite Hotel"
I dislike traveling solo and also dislike being alone when I am in a destination city, even when I’ve been there before and have no difficulty getting around it. Granted, I was last in this vivacious city for the 1976 Expo, but, as I discovered, it had not changed so much that it was unfamiliar to me. I really like to SHARE travel experiences even as I have them, and the appeal of writing for IGOUGO stems from my feeling experiences deepen in meaning when I share.
The first night, sleeping on the pullout living area couch was unpleasant; cold air drifted in from the open sliding glass window that I couldn’t close. My right ankle was throbbing, as I’d banged my suitcase against it as I was leaping off the Toonerville bus a full hour and a half behind expected arrival time. But, the next morning, the adept roommate (a licensed private pilot) quickly fixed the sliding door’s catch so it closed. She’d also started the coffee machine and had stocked the fridge with V-8. Lady Luck had paired me with an intelligent, resourceful young lady who didn’t dislike being with someone old enough to be her mom. We visited the Sun-Yat Sen Garden and Lonsdale Quay together that Friday, but on Saturday I did my own thing, wandering around Robson, catching sight of the Abbott House, and surveying all the cafés and other neighborhood amenities.
Snoopy me did check the kitchenette equipment: one pan and skillet, service for four in plates, cutlery, cups, and glasses. You couldn’t cook a minimal meal, but with the microwave and stovetop, you could easily reheat takeaway items and prepare snacks. A suite is NOT like the apartments I’m used to renting in Europe; kitchenette accurately described what you got here.
In the basement was a heated pool, sauna, and changing rooms, which Harry used the first night to relieve the tension of her long, delayed-en-route flight that resulted in her missing the reception. Jason at the front desk was helpful in helping us keep tabs on each other and on Saturday night when the hotel was full and we needed clean towels. Check Idler’s review of this hotel, as her room was smoke-filled, though she had booked a nonsmoking one. We had a fresh-smelling room and even had a good balcony view.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 28, 2005
Tropicana Suites Robson
1361 Robson Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6E1C6
When you enter this garden, you forget all of this modern jazz and jumble. You enter spaces of calculated order and serenity. We were most fortunate to have as our docent a man who stood straight and tall. He wore a leather jacket sporting many patches, including one,I think (romantic wishful thinking),was that of the "Flying Tigers" of World War II fame. As he explained the philosophic principles embodied in this garden that was cooperatively planned and constructed by the governments of the People’s Republic of China and Canada and the communities of Vancouver, he noted he had followed these principles to enjoy a healthy 84 years of life. Spry and mentally sharp, he was IMPRESSIVE.
These gardens, opened in time for the ’86 Expo, are modeled after similar gardens constructed in the Garden City of Suzhou during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Symbolism prevails throughout along with practical considerations of how natural materials can be manipulated to enhance appreciation of nature. For example, cloudy jade water in special clay-lined pools enhances the quality of reflections cast by objects surrounding them. Willows symbolize graceful women; bamboo signifies the strength and endurance that bends but doesn’t break before adverse conditions. In each area, the courtyard pebbles change in type and structure to convey changing seasons.
You don’t need to understand all of the complex calculation underlying these gardens, although it helps to learn their overall aim is to emphasize man’s place within nature. Throughout the garden, opposites deliberately play off each other: light, dark; soft, hard; small, large. Our docent explained how the garden embodies feng-shui principles and how some constructions were designed to avert evil spirits or slow walkers down so they would notice details. The message to two tired travelers was to harmonize with these tranquil surroundings. And we did.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 28, 2005
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
578 Carrall St.
Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 5K2
(604) 662 3207
Attraction | "Lonsdale Quay Market"
Things had changed. Faint echoes of the Expo reverberated within my brain. Ah, yes! French Creek, where the game arcades had been, where our then 14 year old son holed up more often than not, mystifying our parent minds, which were dumbfounded that he would most enjoy activities he already engaged in frequently at home. North Vancouver October 1986 had been so swamped by visitors like us, who had wrongly waited till the last month of its run, that we had to book a hotel way out east, a 7-block walk to Naimono station, and commute a half-hour each day.
No doubt about it. The Expo had impelled further revitalization of Vancouver that in the years since has increasingly lured more and more tourists. My roommate searched for a gag gift for an upcoming pre-wedding event for a friend. She didn’t find that "special something" she had in mind, but not because there weren’t a lot of off-beat shops here. We paused at shore side before the magnificent view of downtown Vancouver and took photos of each other. We paused before a finger-nail product vendor to allow her to demonstrate her strengthening system. I served as guinea pig and have to admit that for about a month later, the nail she had worked on DID look shapelier, but the price was a tad high and I’m not into nails anyway.
On our return, we met guides samepenny and Kocka Dianka, who were riding several ferries that day just to indulge in the special sea-sky ambience of a lovely September Vancouver day. Check out www.translink.bc.ca for a comprehensive list of ferries serving the city. From Lonsdale Quay, you can connect to Grouse Mountain to see that wonderful view, though Grouse is not the tallest of the beautiful mountain peaks that girt Vancouver Bay and help to make it so beautiful. Ironically named Little Mountain, bordering Queen Elizabeth Park at West 33rd and Cambie Street is tallest at 500 feet, so that’s where view-seekers should go. In the park itself is the Bloedel Conservatory, a 49-foot-high Plexiglas dome worth a view also.
Lonsdale Quay Market & Shops
123 Carrie Cates Court
Vancouver, British Columbia V7M 3K7
This lovely, chandeliered restaurant is quietly elegant. The dinner involved a series of plates (dim sum) carefully served without alcohol diminishing the taste of that food. I don’t particularly like duck, but the duck here was superb, not done to a crisp at the edges the way I have encountered (and disliked). After 10 or so plates of cuisine conjured with loving care and beautifully served, I was so glad I’d attended. The Marine Building in which the restaurant is located has been artfully restored and is a sight in itself not to be missed by lovers of Art Deco.
After the feast Idler, artsnletters, and I sensibly decided on a walk down to Canada Place, which I had never seen up close. During the ‘86 Expo, the queues for it had been too dauntingly long each day for us commuters who could never arrive earlier than 10am. Now it is a waterfront focus that draws locals and visitors to nocturnal vistas of lights over wide water.
Harry Potter likes Greek food, so when we visited Gastown, we enjoyed souvlaki alfresco at a restaurant smack-dab across from the commemorative statue of "Gassy Jack" Deighton himself. Sadly, the restaurant incongruously named Honey’s Character Taverna and Lounge is no longer in business at 1 Alexander Street.
Touristy and crowded as this area is, Vancouver visitors flock to it as the oldest part of town with ever-gorgeous harbor views. In 1867, Gassy convinced some lumber mill workers on the site to build him a saloon, and the thirsty ones obliged speedily. He acquired the nickname that stuck with him and history for his penchant for tall tales and just plain talking incessantly.
In 2 days, even an avid food lover can’t sample very much. After the reception first night, a group of us gal guides gravitated to a tapas place 2 blocks away from the Landmark Hotel and shared several plates of those Spanish tidbits. I was still hungry after I finished 5 of these bocadillos (mouth bites) and found they tasted bland, not much like the food I had in Barcelona, admittedly, the city in Spain that had astounded us with its culinary delights. Similarly, the Awards dinner at the Pacific Palisades was also bland, though I am biased, as I don’t particularly like most Japanese food beyond sushi and shrimp tempura.
About 14 guides got together, at the instigation of Linda Kaye, for a fun Saturday-morning breakfast at the White Tower (Greek) Restaurant next door to the Tropicana Hotel Suites. Mid-pancakes, French toast, eggs, and the usual accompaniment of strong coffee, guides really mingled and exchanged ideas about what to see and do for the day. Clearly, IGOUGOers are an independent, eclectic bunch of people who share a love of food and travel.
Dress was informal at all events; experienced travelers pack light, and neat and casual reigned. I enjoyed the food, the sights, and the faint reminiscences of Expo’86 Vancouver, but I treasured the face-to-face meetings with all those who attended the IGOUGO Guide Meet 2004. Undoubtedly, those who gather in that great big city London for the 2005 meet will accumulate their own indelible memories.